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First-Year Students Experience Pioneer Passage

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Justin Beach

Jon Stone

Media Relations Manager

Jon Stone

Chancellor Chopp speaks to incoming students, parents

News  •

For the first time since arriving on campus, first-year students gathered together on Tuesday morning as the class of 2021. Before the more than 1,500 students — decked out in red shirts — formed a large “DU” at Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium, they took part in Pioneer Passage, the annual orientation ceremony for new Pioneers.

Pioneer Passage was an opportunity for students and their parents to hear for the first time from Chancellor Rebecca Chopp. Her address to students focused on how individual stories — or events — shape our lives. She discussed different events happening in our world, like Hurricane Harvey and the recent tensions in Charlottesville, Virginia. Chopp talked about the impact that exploring southwestern Colorado this summer has had on her own story. She also talked about the stories that have shaped the University of Denver since its founding in 1864.

“Your journey here is to learn and contribute to the stories of others and to write your own story, interlaced with this community and this world,” Chopp said to the students. “In several years, you will be a DU alum. You, too, will create and found DU with your stories.”

The theme of “stories” was shaped by a summer-reading assignment given to all incoming first-year and transfer students: J.D. Vance’s “Hillbilly Elegy.” The bestselling book is Vance’s account of his troubled upbringing in Appalachia. The book was selected for DU’s common reading program, One Book One DU. In addition to reading the book, students were asked to respond to a prompt that will be incorporated into this week’s orientation activities and into first-year seminars.

Students and their parents also heard on Tuesday from Gregg Kvistad, provost and executive vice chancellor; Lili Rodriguez, vice chancellor of campus life and inclusive excellence; Todd Rinehart, interim vice chancellor of enrollment; and Morgan Smith and Darylann Aragon, incoming undergraduate student government president and vice president, respectively.

Before leaving, Chopp offered students three tips for beginning their “DU Story.” She told students to ask questions. “No one expects you to know everything,” she said. “Learn as many stories as you can. Question everyone and everything, but do so from a place of genuine curiosity and openness. Ask to learn, not merely to express your own point of view.”

Second, she told students to keep their balance. “Keep your balance when you are learning to navigate this place,” Chopp said. “Take things in, but don’t get overwhelmed. Go at your own pace.”

Her final message was to connect and engage with others in the DU community. “I suggest you connect with at least three individuals: a person who seems like yourself, a person who is different but you trust, and a faculty, coach, or staff member who can mentor you and help you begin to navigate DU,” Chopp said. “Listen to their stories, tell yours, [and] learn to connect through your stories.”